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Would you be able to recognize the signs of a stroke or know what to do if a loved one was having a stroke? The most important thing is to get to the hospital “FAST”.
According to the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation, stroke is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in Canada, with approximately 62,000 strokes every year – that’s one every nine minutes. A stroke happens when blood flow to parts of the brain is interrupted, depriving cells of oxygen. The majority of strokes are ischemic, which means blood flow is blocked by a clot. If the clot is small and the blockage is only temporary, it’s called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Although unlikely to cause lasting damage, TIAs can be a warning sign of a pending ischemic stroke. The other kind of stroke, hemorrhagic, occurs when a blood vessel ruptures.
Stroke predominantly affects seniors, but anyone can experience a stroke. Risk factors include:1
Nearly 2 million brain cells die each minute a stroke is left untreated.2
For an ischemic stroke, stroke specialists may use clot busting drugs like tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). If the clot is blocking a large vessel, they may use a stent retriever to pull out the clot. According to the American Heart Association, stent retrievers represent one of the most significant advancements in stroke care in over 20 years. Stent retrievers gained prominence in Canada in 2015 when results from a Canadian study showed sig- nificant improvements in patient outcomes compared to only using drugs.
To lower your risk of stroke, the Canadian Stroke Network recommends “reducing the amount of sodium in your diet, regularly eating fruits and vegetables, reducing the amount of fat in your diet, quitting smoking, and maintaining an active lifestyle.”
They also recommend being able to recognize the signs of a stroke.
An estimated 25-40% of ischemic strokes appear to have no determined cause. If you have had a stroke with unknown cause, your doctor may want to monitor your heart for an irregular heart rhythm. One way to do that is with an insertable cardiac monitor. This is a small device implanted just below the skin in the upper chest to continuously monitor the heart for conditions such as atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is an irregular, very fast heart rate, and a major risk factor for stroke. Left untreated, people with AF may have recurring stroke3. Consult with your health care provider to see if this type of monitoring is suitable for you.
Casaubon K, Boulanger J-M, Blacquiere, D et al. Canadian Stroke Best Practice Recommendations: Hyperacute Stroke Care Guidelines, Update 2015. World Stroke Organization. August 2015 vol. 10, 924-940.
Lin HJ, Kelly-Hayes M, Beiser AS, et al. Stroke Severity in atrial fibrillation: The Framingham Study. Stroke. October 1996;(27): 1760-1764.